A DEBILITATING disease which threatened to blind one Crondall resident and has severely reduced her mobility has reunited her with a childhood hobby.

Annette O’Donnell, 56, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), had not sailed in more than four decades since going on weekend trips to Hayling Island with her family.

A chance encounter while out with a carer led to regular sessions with Sailability at Frensham Pond, and now Annette will head to Dubrovnik, Croatia, on April 27 to crew one of a flotilla of five yachts with disability charity Oceans of Hope.

The vessels, all crewed by people living with MS and led by a qualified skipper, will spend a week exploring the islands and historic towns of the Dalmatian coast.

Annette said: “I’m apprehensive, but I’m excited. Everybody helps each other. I feel more guilty that I can’t do as much as some people. I’m going to have to walk across a gangplank. I can’t even use my walker.”

Annette’s father, Ed Martin, worked for Solartron in Farnborough and was a member of the sailing club. The family’s Graduate sailing boat was named Tuppence after Annette’s mother, Penny.

Despite experience sailing in her formative years, Annette says she was a reluctant sailor second time around, but with support from the Sailability team and husband Kevin, 55, she soon found herself ship-shape and now even has her own custom-made buoyancy aid.

She added: “It’s incredible. I love it. They are designed for disabled people. They hoist me into the little boat. It’s lovely.”

When Annette was diagnosed with MS she suffered from blurred vision, and said her pupils were ‘jumping around’.

Doctors explained that she was experiencing a ‘brain stem relapse.’

Despite her limitations, Annette volunteers at two MS Society branches.

While the MS Society funded the trip, Annette wants to give others the same opportunity.

For more information or to donate, go to justgiving.com/fundraising/AnnetteODonnell.

If you have ‘something to give’ and are interested in making new friends, gaining new transferable skills and helping people living with MS across Basingstoke and Farnborough, contact David.Loveridge@mssociety.org.uk or call 07702 605571.